MyOSCAR awarded $5.8 mil FedDev grant

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By Joanna Frketich

McMaster University is getting $5.8 million from the federal government to create a personal health record that will let patients take control of their information and communicate with doctors online — including making appointments.

It will also provide tips on how to live in a healthier way.

“This is a paradigm shift,” said Dr. David Price, chair of the department of family medicine at McMaster. “This is really trying to enable the patient to manage their own health and work toward wellness.”

The personal health record, called MyOSCAR, is already being piloted at the McMaster Family Practice and the Stonechurch Family Health Centre. It is a partner to OSCAR, an electronic health record created by McMaster that is used by about 2,000 physicians in Canada.

MyOSCAR allows patients to own their medical record. All health care providers can have access but the patient controls what and how much they see. It also has applications that would help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and live healthily by providing feedback on diet and exercise.

“The patient role is critical,” said Kevin Leonard, associate professor in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto and the founder of Patient Destiny, which advocates for patient empowerment.

“We don’t give a lot of information out to patients. We ask them to take on more of the burden of managing their care but we give them nothing to do it with. We need patient education and involvement, leading ultimately to empowerment and better health outcomes.”

He thinks the funding announced Wednesday by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) is a step in the right direction.

In total, $15.5 million was given out to bring together 16 private-sector, academic and not-for-profit research partners including McMaster and York universities to create the Connected Health and Wellness Project.

The project will develop software to give patients access to health records, a way to communicate with health care providers and information about living well.

York University is also creating a training program and professional standards for a new profession called a health coach that will help people manage disease and adopt healthier lifestyles.

“It is using innovative technologies that will be developed here in Southern Ontario, it will allow patients to participate more actively in management of their own health issues and, hopefully, it will co-ordinate some of the health care professionals on the team in a much better way,” said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for FedDev Ontario.

The project goes well beyond electronic health records in that it gives patients the ability to connect with health care professionals using their smart phones. One application involves taking a picture of your meals, which would be sent to a health coach for immediate feedback.

The goal is to give patients more control over their health.

“If you have access to your health record, you can be informed as to your health condition, educated about the alternative treatments you might consider and ultimately responsible for the decisions that you make about your health and wellness,” said William Tatham, CEO of software provider NexJ Systems Inc., which is part of the project. “An engaged patient is a healthier person.”

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